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Rice Arrives in Iraq to Discuss Progress, Challenges

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 5, 2006 – Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice made a surprise visit to Baghdad today to discuss progress being made and challenges ahead and to reaffirm that the United States remains “a committed friend for Iraq.”

Rice praised Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki for his “excellent leadership” during a critical period in his country’s history. “This is an important time and a challenge for the Iraqi people, but they are a strong people, they are a committed people and we know that they will overcome these challenges,” she said.

Maliki said he looks forward to discussions about issues important to both the United States and Iraq. Rice also was expected to meet with Iraqi President Jalal Talabani during her visit.

The stopover in Iraq wraps up Rice’s tour of the Middle East, during which she visited Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the West Bank and Israel. Throughout the trip, she expressed U.S. support for moderate Arab leaders, who President Bush calls critical to overcoming extremism in the Middle East.

"We believe that a democratic, modernizing, moderate Middle East is the best chance for peace in this region; it is the best chance for true stability in this region,” Rice said Oct. 3 in Cairo. “Democratic institutions are the only way that people who have differences resolve those differences peacefully."

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Condoleezza Rice


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